2021 Ford Bronco: What's It Like to Live With?

We bought a 2021 Ford Bronco and now we're going to put 20,000 miles on the odometer.

Ford Bronco 2021
Miles DrivenAverage MPG

Latest Highlights (updated 01/21/22)

  • The wind noise from the hardtop is seriously loud
  • We've already beaten the EPA's estimate of 17 mpg
  • Taking the doors off is easy and pretty fun

What We Bought And Why

by Travis Langness, Reviews Editor

Our test vehicle: 2021 Ford Bronco First Edition
Base MSRP: $29,995 (including destination)
MSRP as tested: $62,605
What we paid: $62,605

After a two-decade hiatus, the Bronco nameplate is finally back. The new-generation Bronco is aimed right at the heart of America's most popular off-roader, the Jeep Wrangler. Just like the Wrangler, it's available as a two-door or four-door SUV with a removable roof and doors. There are on-road friendly versions as well as totally wild-and-capable versions with big tires and off-road hardware. And how does it stack up against the Wrangler from an ownership standpoint? We just bought one to test for a year in our long-term fleet to find out.

What Did We Get?

Ford is no stranger to a long list of options. Much like Ford's Ranger and F-150, the Bronco is available in a number of different configurations. For the 2021 model year it comes in one of seven trim levels: Base, Big Bend, Black Diamond, Outer Banks, Badlands, Wildtrak and First Edition. There are also two engines available: a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a 2.7-liter turbocharged V6.

We wanted the most off-road-capable version of the Bronco that money could buy. We also wanted the upgraded 2.7-liter engine and four doors. So, we opted for the First Edition trim.

The First Edition builds on the off-road-focused Badlands trim. The Badlands has a specially tuned suspension, a front stabilizer bar disconnect function (allows for improved wheel articulation for off-road driving), and a seven-mode version of the terrain management system called G.O.A.T. (for "goes over any type of terrain"). It comes with all the standard equipment such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, adjustable terrain management, LED headlights, interior grab handles and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. From there, there are four option packages to choose from. The Mid, High and Lux packages are up first. They add stuff like dual-zone automatic climate control, a 360-degree parking camera and adaptive cruise control.

Finally, the Sasquatch package tacks on even more off-road goodies in the form of 17-inch beadlock-capable wheels, 35-inch mud-terrain tires, electronically locking front and rear differentials, unique fender flares and a shorter final drive ratio. The First Edition includes the Badlands equipment, along with the optional 2.7-liter engine and the contents of the Mid, High, Lux and Sasquatch package options. On top of all that, the First Edition adds special hood and body graphics, a heavy-duty front bumper with a brush guard, heated front seats and power-adjustable front seats. Essentially, it's everything you can get on a Bronco and then some.

Because of chip shortages, hardtop recalls and ordering delays, our Bronco took more than a year to arrive at our local dealer. Thankfully, with the long wait, we were able to get it at MSRP without any additional dealer markup, and that's saying a lot these days. We paid $62,605 plus tax.

Why Did We Get It?

Over the last two decades, we've tested three generations of Jeep Wrangler in our fleet. Years of ownership and tens of thousands of miles behind the wheel have given us great insights into the ownership experience with the Wrangler — on-road comfort, ease of modification, off-road capability and resale value, just to name a few.

We plan on extracting the same kind of data from our time with the Bronco, all while having a bit of fun and taking it off the paved path as often as possible. Can you live with it as a daily driver? Does it have the off-road capability to knock the Wrangler off its pedestal as king of the off-roaders? Only time and over 20,000 miles of driving can tell.

2021 Ford Bronco: Real-World Fuel Economy

The Bronco's fuel economy estimates aren't great. The EPA estimates that the best fuel economy you'll get out of any Bronco is 22 mpg on the highway, and that's with the base 2.3-liter engine. With the upgraded 2.7-liter V6, the one we've got, the EPA estimate is 20 mpg on the highway. Go with the big tires and all the other body cladding that comes with the Sasquatch package, and you're going to be rocking an EPA estimate of 17 mpg combined (17 city/17 highway). There are 10 different powertrain combinations that the EPA rates for the Bronco, and only two get above 20 mpg combined. For comparison, the Jeep Wrangler has 11 powertrain combinations, and only two of those have an estimate below 20 mpg combined. And one of those is the laughably inefficient 6.4-liter V8.

So far, our fuel economy average is just over 15 mpg with just over 1,200 miles on the odometer. Under the 1,000-mile mark, however, we were babying the Bronco — keeping speeds and rpm low during the break-in period. One fill-up crested the 17-mpg mark, but now that the reins are off, I doubt the Bronco's fuel economy will go up from here.

Average lifetime mpg: 15.2
EPA mpg rating: 17 combined (17 city/17 highway)
Best fill mpg: 17.5
Best range (miles): 362.4
Current odometer: 1,236

So how'd you beat the EPA's estimate of 17 mpg?

During the first 1,000 miles of driving our long-term Bronco, we observed Ford's recommended break-in period. That means no full-throttle acceleration, no sustained speeds or lengthy use of cruise control, no towing and no off-roading. So, with a light foot and a gentle attitude, Senior Reviews Editor Travis Langness drove the Bronco from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree and back. It's about 300 miles round trip, and all freeway. There were some city miles once in Joshua Tree, but the 362-mile tank was mostly highway driving with speeds under 75 mph. At the end of the trip, we filled the tank with a little over 20 gallons of fuel, which came out to 17.5 mpg. It's not exactly a Prius, but it's nice to know that we beat the highway estimate this early in ownership.

2021 Ford Bronco: Comfort

The Bronco can tear up the dirt, but what about comfort?

How quiet is it?

I want to make a prediction for our long-term Bronco: The biggest complaint by far, no matter how long we keep it, will be the wind noise. Even with the added insulation on the hardtop, it's a small roar of wind at just 70 mph. Take it up to 75 or 80 and you can barely hear yourself think. Even with the stereo at full volume, you can't drown out the wind noise. At some point, I may look into a duct-tape solution for the seals on the top.

What's it like to drive?

The biggest difference between our long-term Bronco and any Wrangler is steering. Ever driven a heavy-duty van? Or a truck that's towing a big trailer? Or a compact car with way too many of your friends sitting on the trunk? The steering gets really light in those scenarios, as it always is in a high-performance Wrangler like the Rubicon. It makes freeway driving stressful and back-road driving a real underwhelming experience. The Bronco simply doesn't have that drawback. It feels stable and confident on the highway, and that's a HUGE leg up.

2021 Ford Bronco: Miscellaneous

This is where we put all the questions that don't fit in our previous sections. We may even add a few modifications to the Bronco over time, and this is where we'll catalog those changes.

How hard is it to take the doors off?

Ford produced a nice series of videos with instructions for removing the Bronco's hardtop and doors, so we used those as a guide. The instructions are simple, and all the tools you need to do it come with the Bronco in a nice branded kit. After watching the videos a few times, the procedure seemed pretty straightforward. Fold the sideview mirrors forward, place the paint-protective rubber on the doors, unbolt two bolts and violà. Then rinse and repeat three more times. Taking all four doors off our Bronco took about 40 minutes (20 minutes per side) and the Ford-supplied storage bags fit over the doors nicely. If you like to have an open-air experience in the summer, the Bronco will be happy to oblige.

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